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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The Train That Didn't Go That-a-way / January 2020

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💔 LEJ's  Louisiana,

Yours Truly in a Swamp
a monthly e-column by Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
 E-mail: Subscribe@LEJ.org

January 2020
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Copyright 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

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The Train That Didn't Go That-a-Way

by Leonard Earl Johnson

My 9am train West, Amtrak's famous ole #1 (the first train to cross the American continent, and the first train anywhere to bear
Amtrak waiting
a personified name, Sunset Limited) departed New Orleans on time, but The City Care Forgot forgot again that citizens actually live in New Orleans and need to do daily things like catch trains.  As well as serve the holy tourist industry.  

Again this year, just like last year's train booked after the New Orleans Film Festival, passenger access to Union Station was cut off for a marathon run.  A good cause, I'm sure.  But so was catching my train. 

A friendly policeman and two EMS drivers posted along Poydras Street assured me nothing could be done to help me, an elderly scribe with a heart condition.

I had to drag my self and luggage the three long blocks across Poydras Street from City Hall to the Amtrak Station. Where already my train was blowing it's whistle! 

I asked these public servants to at least keep an eye on me, and if I fell over please pick me up and take me to hospital or undertaker.  They agreed.

The train pulled out on time.  Some two-hundred determined souls on board.  No one could say just how many had not made it.  The Assistant Conductor in coach said she had no idea.  The sleeping-car Conductor said he had "Several no-shows," but hoped to pick them up at a scheduled stop West of the Mississippi, "At either New Iberia or Lafayette, Louisiana."  Alas, we never even reached The River.

The previous night's storm had littered the tracks with cables, wires, and fallen trees. We waited about an hour as crews worked to clear our way.  Then, "For safety reasons," a disembodied voice announced, we backed into to the Station, de-trained, went to the desk, and were informed the next train West would be in two days.  

We could have our money back or wait and see if workmen are successful clearing the tracks.

If we waited ~ and wanted ~ we could re-board and wait aboard the more comfortable train, with operational snack-bar and dining car.  We did.

We ate a delicious Don Salad ~ brought along from Arabella Casa di Pasta ~ in the chipper floor-to-ceiling windowed observation car.  With its stunning view of the Amtrak yard.  There we talked with two fellow ageing hippie travelers on their way to an artist colony in the Chihuahua Desert, near Alpine Texas.  Pleasantly we idled the hours away. 

Then the announcement,  Amtrak # 1, was being canceled.  I was put on a new painfully cramped Greyhound Bus departing hours later and arrived at my home out in The Great Mother Swamp eleven hours late and just in time to have a heart attack.  

"A small one, hardly worth bothering the tourist run," L. A. Norma said. 

I am doing fine.  In Lafayette Physical Rehabilitation Hospital with high expectation of going home in a couple weeks.

Weeks later.  Home.  Fine.
Peter S., a friend from distant college daze, wrote asking for New Orleans drinking, eating and music advice for cross-country camping friends of his.  

"Like explaining the Catholic Church, 
easier started than ended," 
 L. A. Norma said, sitting her glass, 
and lighting a Camel Cigarette.
We wrote:
New Orleans gave birth to the cocktail...  🍷

Start with a Sazerac at the Roosevelt Hotel's Sazerac Room.  Some slightly true origin-claim to this very good drink. BIG PLUS: Lovely room with fine New Orleans murals.  Origins of this drink are NOLa, for sure.  Not really at the Roosevelt but close enough.  Ask the bartender.  Or visit the Sazerac House Museum on Canal Street. 

Also the Napoleon House, not far from the Roosevelt, on Saint Louis Street, in the French Quarter, makes a fine example and has a colorful nearly true history itself that is worth touching.  

Crayfish (crawfish) Ettoufee (means smothered, in Louisiana French).  Not hard to find.  Can be on blue-plate lunch specials and fine dining tables.  Next to the Roosevelt's Sazerac Bar is a fine dining room.  Note prices before entering.  Theirs will be good.  

Dooky Chase's Leah Chase passed recently (LEJ's Blog, July 2019), but the great establishment lives on.  Buffet fit for the Gods.  If eating at but one, this would be a good choice. 

My favorite dish, Shrimp Clemenceau is not on the buffet, but well worth ordering from the menu.

The late great Chef Leah Chase of New Orleans and Heaven

Music.  Everywhere.  Most of it good.  A favorite of mine is Kermit Ruffins, trumpeter
who you may have seen in the HBO post Katrina film, TREME.

He bought the late Ernie K-Doe's MOTHER-IN-LAW LOUNGE, with his movie pay (for all the solid community reasons that make New Orleans Big Swamp City).  Charges a 20$us cover for out-of-Towners but free if you have a NOLa ID.  Kind of crummy, but iconic.  Only tourists who know why they came and locals are here.  Under the Claiborne overpass.

He no longer plays at Vaughn's in Faubourg Bywater, but a worthy music venue nonetheless.  Taxi or drive to either, safe-ish as any place in violence-loving gone mad America.  (You know the story, I expect).

Also a good music venue: Chickie Wah Wah – Live Music Venue in NOLa on Canal Street.

And, of course, Preservation Hall, French Quarter, Rue Saint Peter. Locals do not go here, but love the place anyway.  See the film, A TUBA TO CUBA if you get the chance.  (LEJ's Blog, November 2018, contains a review of the New Orleans Film Festival's screening of A TUBA).

The music is famously good.  
General admission is 20$us, first come first served.  CASH only at the door and requires a long wait in line. The odds of being able to sit are slim on a busy night.  No food, no drink, no bathroom, no air-conditioning.  Admission is for a fifty minute set.

Mostly tourists, who often do not know why they came.  I have not gone there in decades but when new to Town spent many a good hour there! 

I met Preservation Hall's hornman, Kid Sheik ~ through the Irish lady on the corner who forwarded my mail when I was out to Sea.  She was called a 'zebra,' white woman with a black man.  

Zebra ~ an ill-fitting word in today's mouth.  He was married. She sewed pockets on his shirt fronts, and usually got us seats in a choir pew on stage. 🎺

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Stroll Frenchmen Street, in Faubourg Marigny just below the Quarter.  Once popular as a local's Bourbon Street but lately full of tourists, but also full of good music clubs.  Calendars are posted on the door/windows.  Charmaine Neville (Daughter of the late Charley Neville) performs at Snug Harbor, on Mondays.

Enjoy.  Eat often.  As we say, Anything worth doing in New Orleans is worth overdoing.  And if you take a train out, check first to make sure The City hasn't dug a moat around the train station.  

~ Your comments or corrections are welcome ~

February 2020

LEJ's Mardi Gras History and Glossary

LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and periodically 
at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
© 2020, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
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Sailor Man Scribe LEJ.org                                  photo credit: Alyce Morgan

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